“Salt” resembles many sci-fi films from the ’70s and early ’80s, complete with 35mm footage of space freighters and moody alien landscapes. But while it looks like a throwback, the way it’s made suggests it could be a new frontier for making movies.
“Salt” is the brainchild of Fabian Stelzer. He’s not a filmmaker, but for the past few months he’s been relying heavily on artificial intelligence tools to create this series of short films, which he releases roughly every few weeks. On Twitter.
Stelzer creates images with image-generation tools such as Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, and DALL-E 2. He mostly makes voices using AI voice generation tools like Synthesia or Murph. And he uses GPT-3, a text-generator, to help with script writing.
There is also the element of audience participation. After each new episode, viewers can vote On what should happen next. Stelzer takes the results of these polls and incorporates them into the plot of future films, which he can spin faster than a traditional filmmaker because he uses these AI tools.
“I could make a ’70s sci-fi movie if I wanted to in my little home office studio,” Stelzer, who lives in Berlin, told CNN Business in an interview from that studio. Is an idea as simple as that?’
The plot, at least for now, is still unclear. such as Trailer shows, it usually focuses on the most distant planet, Kaplan 3, where the mineral salt is initially abundant. Dangerous situations, such as endangering an approaching spaceship in some way. To make things more confusing (and intriguing), different narrative threads are also introduced, and perhaps even some temporal anomalies.
The resulting films are beautiful, mysterious, and ominous. So far, each image is less than two minutes long, in line with Twitter’s maximum video length of two minutes and 20 seconds. Occasionally, Stelzer does Tweet A still image and caption that contribute to the eerie, otherworldly mythology of the series.
Just as AI image generators have already worried some artists, Stelzer’s experiment provides an early example of how disruptive AI systems could be to filmmaking. As AI tools that can generate images, text and voices become more powerful and accessible, it could change the way we think about creating and executing an idea – challenging what it means to create and be a creator. Although the following for these videos is limited, some in the tech space are paying close attention and expect more to come.
“It’s in the embryonic stage right now, but I have full-blown ideas about where I want to take it,” Stelzer said.
The idea for “Salt” emerged from Stelzer’s experiments with Midjourney, a powerful, publicly available AI system that users can provide a text prompt and receive an image in response. The prompts he fed the system produced images that he said “felt like a movie world,” depicting things like alien vegetation, a mysterious figure lurking in the shadows, and a strange-looking research facility on an arid mining planet. One image contained what appeared to be salt crystals, he said.
“I saw it in front of me and I thought, ‘Well, I don’t know what’s going on in this world, but I know there’s a lot of stories, interesting stuff,'” he said. “I saw narrative shadows and shadows of ideas and story seeds.”
Stelzer has a background in AI: he co-founded EyeQuant in 2009, a company that was sold in 2018. But he didn’t know much about making movies, so he started teaching himself with the software and made the trailer for “Salt”. He is He tweeted On June 14. without any written communication. (However, the tweet included a salt-shaker emoji.)
Stelzer calls after that First episode Two days later. He has revealed a lot so far, along with several still images and a few brief film clips. Eventually, he hopes to cut pieces of “Salt” into a feature-length film, and he’s building a related company to make movies with AI. He said that it takes about half a day to make each film.
The vintage sci-fi vibe is partly a tribute to Stelzer’s preferred style and partly due to the technical limitations of AI image generators, which still aren’t great at creating images with high-fidelity texture. To get the AI to generate the images, he created prompts that included phrases such as “sci-fi research station near a mining cave,” “35mm footage,” “dark and beige atmosphere,” and “salt crusts on the wall.”
The look of the film also suits Stelzer’s editing style as an aspiring auteur. As he uses AI to create still images for “Salt,” Stelzer uses some simple techniques to make scenes feel animated, such as panning or zooming in on parts of the image. It’s crude, but effective.
“Salt” has a small but fascinating following online. As of Wednesday, the Twitter account for the film series had nearly 4,500 followers. He said some of them asked Stelzer to show them how he makes his films.
Savannah Niles, director of product and design at AR and VR experience builder Magnopus, follows along with “Salt” on Twitter and says she sees it as a model for the future of storytelling, when people actively participate and contribute to the story. AI helps build. She hopes tools like the ones Stelzer uses will eventually make it cheaper and faster to make movies that today involve hundreds of people, take years and cost millions of dollars.
“I think there’s a lot more to come, which is exciting,” she said.
It is also used as a teaching aid. Northern Illinois University professor David Gunkel, who watches movies via Twitter, said he previously used the short sci-fi film “Sunspring” to teach his students about computational creativity. Released in 2016 and starring “Silicon Valley” actor Thomas Middleditch, it is believed to be the first film to use AI to write a script. Now, he plans to use “SALT” in his fall-semester communication technology classes, he said.
“It creates a world where you feel engaged and immersed,” he said. “I want to see more of what’s possible and what comes out of this.”
Stelzer said he has a “somewhat coherent” idea of what the overall narrative structure of “Salt” will be, but he’s not sure he wants to reveal it — in part because community involvement has already diverted the story in some ways. From what he had planned.
“I’m not sure if the story I have in mind plays out that way,” he said. “And the attraction of the experiment for me is, intellectually, driven by curiosity to see what I, the creator, and the community can do together.”